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Why I’m So Over The Oscars

Image courtesy flixist

Image courtesy flixist

Like a sheep drawn by Le Petit Prince, I will watch the Oscars tomorrow night.  I’ll probably even tweet (Barbie@lemoviesnob) during the ceremony.
But I won’t be dazzled by who wins what or who’s wearing whom.
Last year was the first year in many I missed the Oscar ceremony.
 I was at the True/False documentary film festival and was persuaded to catch a late screening of The Notorious Mr. Bout.
I was worried I would miss something important.  My worry was misplaced:  I saw a brilliant, informative film that is hard to find.
I learned who had won in due time; there were no surprises.
The most talked about moment was a star-studded selfie.  This shows the degree to which the most prestigious awards for the most popular art form in the world has been diminished:  an Entertainment Tonight-esque stargasm.
This post has been percolating in my head for some time. Watching Charlie Rose last Friday night brought my feeling to a boil.
Many members of the Cult Of Charlie have urged me to watch his PBS interview show.  Recently, I have been.  It’s proved to be wonderfully somnific.
Last night he broadcast a compilation of interviews with this year’s Oscar nominees.  During his introduction, he noted the diversity of this year’s nominees and then said, “[But] If there’s one thing this year’s nominees have in common, it’s a passion for storytelling.”
You don’t say.
He really said this. Sans a shred of irony. This is the present-day Edward Murrow over whom my informed friends rave?
Was passion lacking in last year’s nominees? Allow me to answer that:  No, it wasn’t. It has been present since the birth of cinema, in fact.
Movies (with the exception of those by Léos Carax, Jean-Luc Godard, and their ilk), are vehicles for telling stories as are other forms of artistic expression like books, photographs, painting, etc.
Do the most prestigious awards of those other fields come with prognostication from their respective critics?  Do these critics have two categories:  Will Win & Should Win? Has anyone heard of a Pulitzer Prize snub? Is there a book that should have won the Man Booker prize?
That these two categories have become standard is telling. It tells us that those who win don’t necessarily deserve to.
The filmmakers may not all succeed at telling the story they intended, but that does not mean they lacked passion. However, passion should not be mistaken for merit.
Clearly, Whiplash has passion. Lamentably, its story has a conspicuous moment of emotional in-congruence that undermines the entire movie.
How is it possible that an actress who has a speech impediment (and whose ten second imitation of  Roseanne Rosannadanna at best be called insulting) be nominated for an Oscar?
Boyhood has wowed the public and critics, but the truth is its story was created in the same way reality shows are.  It’s a great idea, not a great movie.
The Imitation Game purports to recount history and restore the name and reputation of its subject Alan Turing, but has some egregious inaccuracies that blunt its probity.
No matter, the Academy loves British actors who portray disabled men as much as it loves beautiful actresses who bravely portray ugly women.
Tragedies are popular too. “Slaves n’AIDS” is how Bill Maher summed up last year’s awards.
I, and many other Movie Snobs I imagine, used to enjoy watching the Oscars.
What happened? Have I become savvy and/or cynical (yes, but that’s beside the point)?
I saw many posts across social media during the recent Grammys ceremony complaining about the decline in the quality of music.
It’s easy to call such naysayers fuddy-duddies, old-fashioned, haters, etc.  People do tend to prefer the music of the era during which they came of age.
But, I posit that such is not the case here.  Consider that the biggest song from the biggest Grammy winner of the night, “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith, is plagiarism.  Many of his fans said the similarity is accidental, but plagiarism is intentional by definition. Smith readily “backed down” and agreed to pay royalties to Tom Petty.  Smith didn’t even fight for his integrity.
During the musical era when I came of age, stealing was called sampling, and the original artists were paid, sometimes via direct participation.
The truth is that music used to be better.  So were movies before they bred sycophantic swarms.
Although no one outside of the industry has ever really cared who wins awards that don’t involve celebrities, we used to be able to see those celebrities free of today’s requisite minyan of stylists, PR flacks, posses/entourages, etc.
When an actress made a questionable fashion choice, it was still her choice. The repercussion was to be called out by Mr. Blackwell, a failed actor turned moderately successful designer who found his calling telling celebrities they looked awful.
Barbra Streisand made his list twice.
Why I'm Over The Oscars

It’s not THAT bad
Barbra Streisand at the Oscars in 1969
Image courtesy of franklymydear-blog

Note that Mr. Blackwell didn’t call out the designer of his hated ensembles, he called out those who chose it.  Neither he nor anyone else asked who was wearing whom. No one cared. Those were the good old days.
In those same good old days, the actors who won would thank their team briefly and then go on to make brilliantly inspiring acceptance speeches.
I remember as a kid seeing Dustin Hoffman give this acceptance speech, and I thought of it often as I prepared to become an actress:

Now, their teams are so numerous, they only have time to thank them (if they’re lucky).
With literally billions of people watching around the world who neither know nor care about these people, there’s little hope for more moments like this.
How is it possible that a ceremony that celebrates producing entertainment cannot keep the show running over its allotted time every single year?  I shared some practical suggestions two years ago if anyone is interested.
We all look to the Academy Awards as the pinnacle of Hollywood success.  Sadly, the truth is as fallacious as the images we believe on the screen.
There exists a mythical “Oscar Curse” that postulates heartbreak will befall actresses (note:  not actors) who win.
In reality, the recompense for actresses is more lugubrious.
Dianne Wiest has won two Oscars but now cannot find enough work to afford to live in New York.
2010 Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Mo’Nique has been banished from productions because she refused to participate in on Oscar campaign. We will never know what kind of work she could have done. We have been robbed as moviegoers.
As we watch the Oscars tonight, let’s remember that awards are the sugar of the movie industry, a prettily colored, quick carb rush. The nutrition comes from the experience of watching movies, the product of many hours of hard work and careful thought.

About 

This site was borne of my passion for movies, particularly French films. I have spent time in France and am fluent in the language, hence the “le”. The “snob” part, while of French origin, is not meant to intimidate, but rather an effort to reclaim the word from the pretentious, just as the gay community has done with the word “queer.” We’re all snobs; we all like what we like.

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